This Week in Home Video
The Wailing Will Mess With Your Head in Gloriously Demented Ways
Pick of the Week
What is it? A bumbling cop in a small South Korean village comes face to face with evil when strange crimes begin occurring on his watch. Locals are killing those closest to them before coming down with odd, grotesque illnesses of their own, and the rumor mill points the finger of blame at a Japanese stranger living outside of town. Has he cursed them all? Who’s the mysterious young woman wandering the streets? And can the cop stop it all before his own family is targeted?
Why buy it? Na Hong-jin’s latest is every bit as dark, vicious, and spellbinding as his earlier films (The Chaser, The Yellow Sea) even as early violence occurs offscreen and a hint of the supernatural hangs in the air. Thrills and chills are spaced throughout the film, steadily increasing across a 156 minute running time that feels much shorter, but the first act is somewhat deceptive in its lean towards the absurd and goofy. Sure there’s a bloody crime scene or two in there too, but our lead teases the tone with pratfalls, inept excuses for his tardiness, and a soft amiability. The mystery comes with more than a few twists of the metaphorical knife as Na’s story and characters deal in fear laced with xenophobia and superstition, and the revelations offer some dark surprises. Genre shifts are executed fluidly as comedy, action, and horrific thrills work in tandem to hold our attention, and the visuals are equally engrossing as Na’s presents a rural Korea that hasn’t looked this frightening and menacing since Bong Joon-ho’s brilliant Memories of Murder.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
The Wailing [Blu-ray]
What is it? Six friends/acquaintances take a vacation on a privately-chartered yacht for a few days of fishing and fun in the sun around Greece. A game is suggested as they head back towards Athens. Each man will suggest a challenge, all of them will compete, and someone will be crowned winner. Still not quite competitive enough, it’s quickly modified into a game of The Best in General. They’ll judge each other on everything they do ‐ how they sleep, what they wear, how they prepare foods, how quickly they respond to cries for help ‐ and keep score in individual notebooks. He with the most points wins. It’s a dick-measuring contest ‐ at one point almost literally ‐ guaranteed to topple friendships, dissolve partnerships, and leave all six of them in need of a vacation.
Why see it? Director/co-writer Athina Rachel Tsangari’s third feature film (after 2010’s oddly appealing Attenberg) is a humorous and insightful look at adult masculinity and the games men play with each other and with themselves. The comedy is dry and subtle early on as the characters are initially setup, but some big laughs come our way once the game begins in earnest. It may just be the most broadly appealing film to come out of Greece in some time, but it’s every bit as deserving of the attention afforded to its crazier cousins including the likes of Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth and Alps (both of which Tsangari produced). At its core its a simple film about men and their relationships to each other ‐ friends, but always potential competitors ‐ and that truth leads to realizations that these six are in no way prepared for.
[DVD extras: Short film]
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
What is it? Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper) is a simple man of simple pleasures, but his simple life comes to a screeching halt when he inherits $20 million from a big-city uncle. He arrives in the city and immediately finds himself targeted by greedy people at every turn, so he decides to give away the fortune to those in greater need. And boy does it piss off those greedy people.
Why buy it? Frank Capra delivered plenty of stories to the screen involving good people tested by society’s mob mentality, but only one ended up being remade by Adam Sandler. This original is a delightful comedy that blends heart and a screwball mentality in a tale of good triumphing over cynicism. Its depression era setting also provides a backdrop for a story of much-needed compassion and hope, and it’s never a bad time to watch a movie with that kind of message.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, interview]
Slugs [Arrow Video]
What is it? A small town begins experiencing a rash of strange, gory deaths among its populace, and the one common thread is a series of slime trails nearby. Killer slugs have evolved with a little help from a nearby toxic waste dump, and now the only one capable of stopping their bloody onslaught is a man named Mike Brady.
Why see it? Director J.P. Simon gets a lifetime pass thanks to the brilliance of Pieces, but this creature feature is far less of a gem. It’s arguably and objectively a bad movie ‐ the script and acting are laughable ‐ but its goofy sincerity and wonderfully messy gore effects make it a fun time at the movies. Arrow’ new Blu-ray features a couple commentaries including an entertaining one with Shaun Hutson, the author of the source novel.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, interviews]
Swiss Army Man
What is it? Hank (Paul Dano) is stuck on a desert island and has been for weeks. Food and water are scarce, he’s used every scrap piece of trash to send out pleas of help into the sea, and he’s at the end of his rope. He literally has his neck in a noose, but he stops when a body washes ashore before his eyes. The man (Daniel Radcliffe) is dead. The man is gassy. Hank rides the man off the island.
Why buy it? That’s just the pre-credits opening to one of the year’s most visually inventive films, and it gets weirder from there. It’s rare to find a film that mixes serious themes of regret, sadness, and isolation with an incredibly sophomoric imagination ‐ did I mention the dead man’s flailing, compass-like erection? ‐ but writers/directors The Daniels (Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert) have crafted just such a creatively moving and inventively dizzying concoction of farts and feelings with their feature debut. There’s perhaps not enough of the serious and a bit too much of the goofy, but the film’s technical polish keeps all of it moving forward with the promise that something even crazier, more unexpected, and possibly heartbreaking is just around the corner.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, Q&A, featurettes, commentary]
Swiss Army Man [Blu-ray + Digital HD]
What is it? A group of high-schoolers enjoying a private party spend a night of fun before waking up to terror. Brie finds the house empty before an anonymous phone call reveals her six besties have been buried in six different locales around town. Their final minutes are being broadcast online, and their fates rest in her next move.
Why see it? This Australian thriller fights an uphill battle for much of its running time as we’re stuck with characters we don’t like and dimly-lit scenes in coffins that fail to excite, but the third act manages something resembling a payoff. The energy and suspense ramps up as death becomes imminent, and the film does a solid job of jumping between the characters. That high is diminished by a dull wrap-up though.
[DVD extras: Featurette]
What is it? Four friends on a road trip through rural America are forced into a detour when one of them loses their phone. They’re directed to a seemingly abandoned town and quickly realize it’s not as empty as they first thought. Because there are clowns.
Why see it? This is a garbage movie. The dialogue is terrible, laughably so at times, and the film makes no effort to find logic in any step of its plot. The characters are dim-witted, and the idea of a town taken over by a handful of clowns ‐ without ever drawing the attention of law enforcement ‐ is barely interesting but executed poorly. Worse, the film somehow manages to make clowns more boring than frightening. Blame the makeup, blame the performances ‐ these clowns are not the least bit threatening or scary.
[DVD extras: None]
What is it? Tom (Michael Shannon) is happily married and celebrating his birthday with friends when one of them introduces his new friend, Alice (Rachel Weisz). The problem is Tom recognizes her as a girl he dated fifteen years ago… a girl named Jenny.
Why see it? This is a pretty fascinating premise, and that setup combined with these two leads makes it worth a watch, but the execution leaves something to be desired. Part of the problem is the pacing as it never feels like Alice’s revelations move the needle at all, but we also never quite get on her page emotionally. Still, Shannon and Weisz.
[DVD extras: Commentary]
Daughter of Dracula [Kino Lorber]
What is it? A dead woman washes ashore, and all signs point to the creepy castle nearby with its even creepier occupants. The Count who lives there is an odd one, but his niece has a weird vibe about her too. Oh, and she also has fangs!
Why see it? Jess Franco is one filmmaker I’ve never been able to get on board with no matter how many times I give him a shot. Sure he adds genre plots and sleaze together, but that’s just not enough to change the fact that he’s a godawful director. The eroticism comes through fine, although the lovely ladies deserve credit there, but he’s unable to deliver atmosphere, terror, or drama. A lot of you do like his films though, and you’re going to be happy with this new Blu-ray thanks both to its dreamy image and Tim Lucas commentary.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]
What is it? Bruce is having a rough time adjusting since his policewoman wife’s attack at the hands of criminals, but he finds small comfort in donning riot gear and heading out into the night in search of bad guys to pummel to death. His thirst for vigilante justice quickly spirals out of control though as guilt and innocence begin to intertwine.
Why see it? Vigilante/revenge films have a pretty standard path to follow, but while most stick to the pattern (for better or worse) some veer off to find their own voice. I Saw the Devil remains the best of that breed, but this Canadian import is an interesting effort too. It succeeds more as a stylish experience ‐ mostly thanks to a killer score ‐ than a narrative one, but there are some interesting, dark touches throughout that intrigue.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, deleted scene, Q&A]
Diary of a Chambermaid
What is it? Celestine (Lea Seydoux) works as a maid in and around Paris at the turn of the 20th century, but while she’s expected to grin and bear it she never quite feels at home in the position. That attitude leads her into conflict with employers and co-workers, but it also shapes her path through life.
Why see it? Octave Mirbeau’s classic novel has come to the screen previously, but it’s hard to argue with another adaptation when it has Seydoux in the title role. She’s effortless in both visible attitude and beauty, and the light behind her eyes seems constantly on the verge of making a drastic and dangerous decision.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
Fender Bender [Scream Factory]
What is it? Hilary is celebrating her newly acquired driver’s license with a quick drive, but she almost immediately winds up in an accident. It’s the other driver’s fault, so she nervously exchanges info and gets on with her day. Unfortunately for her, the accident was no accident, and now a killer has her address.
Why see it? This is a terrific setup for a slasher, and the film makes great use of the premise. There’s a smart logic to both the killer’s plans and young Hilary’s behavior, and that makes it all the more annoying when the ending completely drops the ball.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, featurette]
Into the Forest
What is it? It’s the near future, and life is wonderful. A massive power outage changes all that though leaving a man and his two daughters (Ellen Page, Evan Rachel Wood) forced into finding a way to survive as the world crumbles around them. It helps that their home is remotely located in the woods, but it’s just not remote enough.
Why see it? The big draw for this post-apocalyptic drama are the lead performances (as well as Callum Keith Rennie as their father), and it’s a solid change of pace from the genre’s typical boy’s club. As well acted/directed as it is though there’s very little appeal to the story it’s telling. We care about the characters, but the things they go through lack satisfaction or engagement.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, commentary]
What is it? Joshy (Thomas Middleditch) is in a happy relationship with the lovely Alison Brie, but his world crashes down when she kills herself during the opening credits. Some months later, after realizing he can’t get the deposit back on a rental house for his planned bachelor party, he decides to hang out with his guy friends in the hopes of feeling better.
Why see it? Middleditch is joined by Adam Pally, Nick Kroll, Jenny Slate, Brett Gelman, and Alex Ross Perry, so you’re probably thinking this is flat-out comedy. There are plenty of laughs here, including several from Perry, but there’s also a surprising darkness (maybe not so surprising after that opening, but still…) pervading some of the characters.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary]
Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV
What is it? King Regis (voice of Sean Bean) is tasked with protecting his kingdom, his family, and a powerful crystal from an enemy force immense in size and strength.
Why see it? I couldn’t tell you a damn thing about the world of Final Fantasy so I can’t say as to whether these are returning characters, but I do know this is one hell of an attractively animated film. It’s top-notch cut-scene quality with fast, exciting action, and while the denseness of the plot and characters are something of a challenge early on it’s easy to stick with thanks to the visual appeal.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
The Mind’s Eye
What is it? Zack Connors is wandering the countryside until an altercation with local police reveals he possesses certain mental powers including telekinesis. He’s subdued and transported to the mysteriously-named Slovak Institute of Telekinetics where he tentatively agrees to stay on and help with their research in exchange for the opportunity to see an old friend named Rachel. It was an empty promise though, and when Zack discovers what’s really happening at the institute he and Rachel make a run for freedom.
Why see it? Writer/director Joe Begos has delivered a film that feels to its very core every bit the Scanners sequel we never got. (Yes I know we got two sequels, but have you seen them? Eesh.) Spectacular practical effects, a minimalist plot, and sketchy acting combine in his very bloody, occasionally fun, and constipation-face-filled thriller. Gooey moments are easily the highlight here, and while exploding heads are the money shots there’s plenty of non-cranial bodily damage too. Color shifts throughout the film as scenes are lit it in primary hues, and Steve Moore’s score also stands out with a propulsive electronic beat and a powerful use of bass.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, commentaries]
Prince: Movie Collection
What is it? A young singer (Prince) struggles with success and love in Purple Rain. A pair of scam artist brothers (including Prince) make a plan to woo a young woman out of her inheritance, but love gets in the way in Under the Cherry Moon. That same young singer from earlier is now a few years older but still struggling with success and love in Graffiti Bridge.
Why see it? Prince’s untimely death this year has deprived the world of more musical greatness, but it’s safe to say cinema won’t suffer any. His trio of feature films are gifted with fantastic soundtracks but only the oddball center film ‐ the black and white riff on Dirty Rotten Scoundrels ‐ manages to legitimately entertain. Purple Rain though is a mess of lazy direction, bad acting, weak writing, sloppy editing, and basic misogyny, and y’all are nuts for saying otherwise. (Yes that includes Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel too.) It does look great on this newly remastered Blu-ray though.
[Blu-ray extras: Featurettes]
The Purge: Election Year
What is it? Leo (Frank Grillo) has survived his share of Purge nights, but he’s no longer a broken man looking for revenge. Now he works as head of a protection detail for a presidential candidate who promises to repeal the Purge if she’s elected. Her opponent and his cronies have other plans.
Why see it? This third entry in the franchise is closer in spirit to the last film than the first ‐ it’s more action film than horror ‐ and it delivers some solid set pieces involving gun play and fisticuffs. It’s still the least effective of the three though as it lacks the emotional connection of the last one and the more intimate thrills of the first.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
What is it? A group of friends visiting Los Angeles decide to turn the trip into their own tour of sights and locales once touched by satanic events. They soon realize it’s not as exciting as they had hoped and decide to follow a creepy shopkeeper instead. It’s a mistake though as they become witness to something they shouldn’t have seen and find themselves targeted by something evil.
Why see it? The story begins like a Race With the Devil riff before becoming its own thing, and it’s a refreshing change of pace from the usually similar plot lines of too many horror films these days. It loses steam approaching the third act as it goes a couple steps too far, but a solid cast and effective direction keep things interesting enough all the way to the end.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
What is it? Home Hunters Global is a globe-hopping reality show about people finding new homes in international locales ‐ think House Hunters International on a budget ‐ and their latest episode introduces viewers to Becky, an American artist hoping to settle in the Eastern European nation of Moldova. She’s found her new home in the small town of Pavlovka where the locals are twitchy and the Starbucks are non-existent, but when the show’s crew returns a few months later to follow-up on her progress they find more than renovations waiting for them.
Why see it? The film’s strength shows its face shortly after that opening with the atypical (for found footage) realization that these actors can actually act. All of the leads show a good handle on their characters and fluid interactions with each other and a script that walks a line between comedy and horror/thriller. The deference is heavily slanted towards the comedy, and while it doesn’t always earn a laugh it never really grates like FF characters typically do. Of course as natural as they all are they’re hindered by the artificial format they’re stuck with here ‐ cameras rolling when they wouldn’t be, pointed at things they wouldn’t be, reacting to things solely within the confines of the lens ‐ and it detracts from the scares and the film far more than it adds. It adds nothing of course, but there you go. It all builds towards a chaotic finale ‐ one already glimpsed in that inept opening choice ‐ that delivers some fun, energetic, and gory beats even as the FF angle and inexpensive CG lessens the overall effect.
[DVD extras: None?]
Vamp [Arrow Video]
What is it? Keith and AJ are best buds trying to get into their college’s biggest fraternity, and the key to their entry is getting a stripper for a party. They pick the wrong club though and wind up victimized by vampires led by the one and only Grace Jones.
Why see it? This horror/comedy sits outside Chris Makepeace’s celebrated ‘M’ trilogy ‐ Meatballs, My Bodyguard, Mazes & Monsters ‐ but it still offers an appealing mix of laughs and vampire-related action. It’s a bit too sedate at times and approaches dullness, but a dry humor goes a long way to keep things engaging enough. And not for nothing, but the line “Formica… go figure!” is one I’ve been quoting out of context for decades.
[Blu-ray extras: Making of, rehearsals, bloopers, short film]
What is it? Buildings explode, punches are thrown, and at some point Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) makes a heartfelt plea to the humanity he knows still exists somewhere inside Magneto (Michael Fassbender). A greater enemy is Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), the world’s first mutant who we meet in 3600 B.C. just as he’s being betrayed as a false god and buried beneath a crumbled pyramid. We then jump to the early 1980’s where life has continued since the events of Days of Future Past.
Why see it? If you’re looking for new stories and character arcs then this probably isn’t the superhero movie for you, but if you enjoyed the last couple of X-Men films and just want to spend an entertaining and moody couple of hours with these characters then what Singer delivers is just enough. What Singer’s film lacks ‐ aside from a fresh narrative angle ‐ is ambition. Sure Apocalypse is a bigger, badder villain, and the global destruction he causes is fairly epic, but the desire isn’t here to tell a story outside of the already well-established X-shaped box. We get it… ignorance breeds fear and hatred, but we should try to remain hopeful for mankind and stuff. The recent Captain America: Civil War succeeds in part because it scales the conflict down to a more personal look at grief, integrity, and ego. X-Men can do the same going forward by acknowledging that our favorite mutants have more to fight against in this world than prejudice towards blue people.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, gag reel, featurette, commentary]
Also Out This Week:
All Through the House, Amazonia, American Horror Story ‐ Hotel, Ithaca, The Last King, Microbe and Gasoline, Nashville [Criterion], Penny Dreadful ‐ The Final Season, Preacher ‐ Season One, Stephen King’s It
Related Topics: Home Video